You’ve Been “Notebooked”

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Have you ever read or watched a scene that gave you chills? The guy says all the right things, the girl responds accordingly, and the scene ends in an epic kiss that you feel down to your toes because you know that these two are meant for each other.

Those are the kind of scenes I like to write. And I’m still learning. Several years ago, I would have laughed at anyone who told me I would write romance. Don’t get me wrong…I’m definitely a romantic, but I’m more of a closet romantic who only expresses it if the situation allows. As I write, I’m learning to tap into that closet romantic side of myself. To do so, it helps to understand why people love the romantic pop culture hits.

Let’s face it: You can’t talk pop culture romance without talking The Notebook.

People mock it. Chicks dig it. He’s hot, and she’s girl next door gorgeous. Guys groan when their girlfriends “Notebook” them. But there’s a reason that The Notebook and other movies based on Nicholas Sparks’ books do so well. If you can move past your bias, you’ll identify the attracting factor.

It’s all about love. Those are the moments in the movie/book most remembered and most quoted. Think about it. You remember what Noah said to Ally. You remember the passion and tears. You remember the words, the heartache, and the victory.

You root for this couple. So what can we take away that will help us write memorable romance?

1. The scene becomes another character and sets the mood.

Whether it’s the sweeping southern scenes that make you long for small towns, front porches, and handsome gentlemen, or the throes of war that make you cheer for the soldiers on the battlefield, Sparks (and others) knows how to give the scene a personality all its own. The scene definitely sets the stage of the romance, tugging at your sympathies.

2. The characters are three dimensional.

I love following Noah’s story in The Notebook. And no, it’s not just because he’s good looking. I love watching his growth. He starts out as a gutsy teenager who works to help his family and experiences summer love. Only he doesn’t let go when the summer comes to a close. He writes, growing in the midst of recording his heart to a girl who left. Then he heads off to war with his best friend, loses him, comes home, buys a home, loses his dad, and spends some time refurbishing a house. He is no longer the gutsy teenager out to charm the girl. He’s experienced heartache, loss, success, regret, and loneliness. But then Ally comes back. He’s the same romantic guy, but more mature, calm, confident in what he wants. By the end of the movie, he is an old man still set on charming his one and only love and fully confident in their love story. Who doesn’t like to watch love conquer all?

3. The dialogue is memorable and passionate.

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Once again, I love Noah’s dialogue. This country boy is deep. Why? He realizes the cost of love, the difficulty, the pain, the joy, and he’s willing and ready to weather it all. He believes it’s worth it. And he makes us believe it, too.

4. Good, bad, or indifferent – it doesn’t shy away from cultural issues or trends.

We live in a culture of sex, drugs, and whatever you want goes. Don’t shy away from the issues. Be in the world but not of it with your writing. Some writers define love by physical relationships. We have to address how Jesus defines life and love in the midst of our romance.

5. It relates to our desire to be known, loved, and belong to something greater than ourselves.

Why is this a big deal? Because God created us for relationships, set eternity in our hearts, and said it isn’t good for us to be alone. Tap into your emotions. Let them flow on the page with every word. And in the midst of the character romance, point people to the romance they can have with Jesus.

What tools help you when writing romance?

One Reply to “You’ve Been “Notebooked””

  1. I too am a closet romantic. I think Nicholas Sparks stories are so effective because they also all include loss, pain, and ultimately redemption. As you said he makes us root for the couple even if it ends tragically (Message in a Bottle). He talks to the reward of hard work because we know real love is not easy. Sometimes you have to fight to get and fight to old on to it. We want this epic love to be attained, to survive.

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